Two Tone is one of those guy that make your life more interesting than you want it to be. He’s called Two Tone because his skin looks as if it’s been through a shredder and his name is Tony. Well Anthony, if I’m being picky. Lately he’s got that smell. It follows him around like a skunk’s tail. You think he’s not going to last that long, but in the meantime you don’t want him sitting on your furniture. He stood at my front door holding a tatty plastic bag with some kind of shit in it. Two tone is always trying to sell you something, working the wide-guy angle.
‘Whit is it now?’ I don’t want to give him any encouragement by smiling.
He doesn’t take it personally and hands me an old black-and-white photograph. Despite myself, I’m interested. ‘That’s Simeone’s.’ I trace a finger over it. ‘And that’s Black's The Roll Shop. Jesus,’ I say. ‘That’s Hunters and Curries just up from the shipyard. I forgot all about that. Remember when we used to go in there for a bridie?’
‘Aye,’ he hoots. ‘Remember when we used to go into Simeone’s for a roll in chips and you’d put that much vinegar on it your hand would be soaking wet – even through the paper. An’ we used to ask the old baldy cunt behind the counter for a rat supper, he must have been about ninety, because the place was hoching, an’ he’d go ballistic? Be we didnae care, cause those rolls in chips were magic.’
‘Aye,’ I say, waving the photograph between us. ‘And how is…’ and I can’t remember her name. But he recognises the tone. Recognises the look of incomprehension on my face. Just like the old days, he fills in the gaps.
‘Ma Linda,’ he says. ‘You know what she’s like. I think she joined AA so that she could screw all the guys she missed first time round.’
‘Aye,’ I say. ‘She was always a bit crazy, but a right good-looking girl.’ I shove the photograph back at him. He sticks it inside his bag, but already he’s stirring them, peering in, pulling out another and another. He’s got a whole stack of them, bunched in his fist. I’m thinking ahead. How much I’ll give him—a pound, or something, to get rid of him. I don’t even want to look down at the next one.
He’s not daft. He hands me it anyway. Watches my face blossom into a smile. ‘Where the fuck did you get these?’ I ask. It’s our old street, the tin-four in a block houses, hedges, gardens, the lot. I’m sure if I got a magnifying glasses I’d be able to see our Ma peeking out the living room window.
He taps the side of his nose. ‘That would be tellin.’
‘You fuckin’ stole them!’
‘Fuck off,’ he says, a hurt tone in his voice. ‘A got them out of the back of a skip outside the library. There’s thousands of them. Just lyin’ there. Fuckin’ stupid cunts. Flingin’ everthin’ away.’
‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘How are your kids?’
He shakes his head. ‘Fuck knows. They take nowt to do with me. She’s got a stick now you know.’ He made a face. ‘Gimps about the place. Everybody I know now’s got a stick. It’s fuckin’ depressing.’
‘Much for this one?’ I ask.
‘Fuck off,’ he growls.
‘But you got them for nothing.’
‘So fuckin’ what.’ He snatches the picture out of my hand. ‘You got your whole life, your house and fancy car for nothin’.
‘Nah,’ I say. ‘I worked for it. No’ like you.’ We square up to each other. ‘Never worked a day in your life.’
‘Don’t give me that,’ he snarls. ‘You married to that frosty-faced lookin’ cow because nobody else would have her.’ He puts on that mincing voice, meant to be mimicking Cheryl, ‘ “Oh, my Daddy has his own company”.’ He snorts and laughs as the same time. ‘Let's face it his job was telling old biddies that they would get raped in their beds unless they paid increasingly large amounts of cash for a duff alarm. Chance would be a fine thing. Took you on. Then the auld cunt died. That was the only thing he ever done for free. So don’t geez any of your pish, Johnny boy. I know you too well.’
My fists ball and I’m ready to fly at him. But I take a step backwards. I know how he works too. He drops his bag, his neck rolls sideways and he’s going to put the heid on me. ‘That’s it,’ I hold my hand up in a stop sign. We glare at each other from a safe distance. I watch him clench his jaw and stick out his chin. He doesn’t take that step and fly over the threshold of the door. ‘I’m going to phone the police.’
He picks up his bag, puckers his lips and shrugs his shoulders. ‘Go right ahead. I’ve got nothin’ to lose. My daughter’s married to a cop.’
‘What one?’ I find myself asking. ‘Joanne?’ She was the prettiest one.
‘Aye, she’s got a stick too. Fat fuck. Takes after her mother. The things I done for her. She’s got a boy and a girl. I sometimes see them in the passing. Lovely wee things. They don’t know who I’m ur. Just see some old alkie guy.’
‘I’m sorry.’ I feel a bit stupid. ‘Whit was it she did again?’
‘Who?’ He frowns, shakes his head. ‘Oh her! She passed her exams and got into the police too. That’s where she met him. Got up the duff. Usual thing.’
‘Whit’s he like?’
He takes a deep breath and huffs it out as he considers. ‘Big cunt. Stupid looking.’ A note of exasperation enters his voice. ‘The type that wore a button-up sweater until they were sixteen in case they got a cold and joined the cops straight from school. Putty in our Joannne’s hands. Typical cop. He couldnae find the telly without the remote in his hand.’
‘That’s a shame,’ I find myself saying.
He sniffs. ‘It’s not all bad. He’s scared to lift me in case anyone finds out I’m related to him.’
‘How? You behaving yourself?’ I ask.
The two of us grin at each other.
‘Fuck off,’ he says. ‘You goinae buy one of these pictures or no’?’
‘Depends?’ I say. ‘Whit you askin’?’
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